Excerpt - Beauty in Partnership

She rests her hand on my back under my shoulder when I put my hand lightly on her lower back. I close my fingers around her other hand. I lock my shoulders down over my ribs while lifting them up, stretching my elbows to define a line. We are in communication reaching from our joined hands through my arm, across my chest, into her arm, across her shoulders, then back to our hands again. I lift my foot, guide our center forward for two slow steps, then finish the tango basic pattern. She effortlessly mirrors my movement.

Who is she? At times the lady is my wife, Fran, when we dance at home, at dance parties, at special events like a tea dance. At other times, she is my instructor, Monica, at lessons, showcases, competitions and, occasionally, at social dances. At still other times, the lady is another person who seeks the pleasure of ballroom dancing. I may know her from a studio where we dance, or I may never have met her before, like happens at the USA dance Twin Cities Chapter in what they call a “waterfall.” Men line up on one side of the ballroom floor, ladies on the other, and we walk toward each other. The lady meets a gentleman, they dance the length of the floor, and each then returns to the line.

I am one who truly loves ballroom dancing. I enjoy, no I thrill with the opportunity to take a lady in my arms and move in total harmony to the music. In every dance, now, the partnership moves as one unit, our individual bodies sharing a common core. What is it like for a gentleman to lead a lady? One image is that the lady is a sports car, like a Ferrari, and the gentleman is the driver. The driver without the car goes nowhere, and the car without the driver also goes nowhere. Together they make the journey, and that is what makes dancing amazing.

I don’t have a Ferrari, but I do have a 1974 Triumph TR6. It has a six cylinder engine with two Weber Carburetors, stick shift and disk brakes. Even with the key in the ignition, it sits alone in the garage. When I get in, turn the key and start the engine, it still just sits there. When I engage the clutch and back it out of the garage, it is like I’m walking on to the dance floor with a lady holding my right arm. I shift into first gear and begin to drive. The TR6 and I make the journey together.

When I learned to drive, I didn’t do everything right, though I did surprise my father when I passed my drivers license test on the first try, parallel parking for the first time. By instinct, or perhaps because I had watched him do it, I turned the correct way to look back. So, too, being able to hold my frame for an entire dance, and keeping my head to the left while turning right, are not things I could do in my early years of dancing.

What is it like for a lady to follow the gentleman’s lead? Fran says “The feeling is confidence and when the gentleman takes the hand of the lady, he wants to demonstrate he can dance and give the lady fun on the dance floor. You are willing to step out in that confidence. I trust that the gentleman knows what he is doing. He has confidence and I have trust, and when it works we float around the floor as one unit.”

Monica says that she sees herself as a wellspring of energy waiting for a signal. Sending a signal and the ability to keep sending it is what Monica has been teaching me. The connection I make with my lady, from her hand in mine, across my back and so on, back to our hands, acts as a signal to release the lady’s energy and merge it with mine. As long as we are connected, the energy flows and so do we. The story, or rather my journey on the dance floor, has been life changing.

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